Yesterday at the New England Aquarium I spent my day around the base of the Giant Ocean Tank(GOT) in the penguin exhibit. Today I climbed a few flights of stairs and spent my day working in and around the Giant Ocean Tank ! Normally everyone helps prepare all the food in the morning, then there is a feeding at 10am, but today was a little different because the vets were there to do check-ups on some of the critters. This doesn’t happen that often, so I was really excited to be a part of it. We had to get a big crate that they lower down into the tank via a pully/lift system so that they could safely weigh and contain the animals they were working on. They weighed and gave the turtles shots (Myrtle weighs 554 pounds!), clipped the barbs on the cownose rays (they grow like finger nails), and did a check-up on one of their moray eels. It was a really exciting way to start the day!
Once the vets were finished it was feeding time, and all the animals were hungry because it was high-past breakfast by now for them. I got to go out on the platform and feed Myrtle, their 75-80ish year old green sea turtle. She is quite the character, and loves following the divers around, so she gets fed from her own special platform. Her diet consists of a bunch of different veggies, from cabbage to broccoli, but her favorite treats are brussels sprouts! I’m sure there are more than a few kids that would be willing to donate their sprouts to her! 😛
Once we finished feeding, it was time to get ready for my dive in the Giant Ocean Tank! I was SO excited! And, my mom and grandmother were in the aquarium, so they were going to get to watch! Paul went in with me as my guide, and we had an absolutely fantastic time! The water was SO much warmer than the penguin exhibit yesterday because the GOT is a Caribbean environment. One of the number one rules that you have to follow in the tank is that the animals always have the right of way. So, when you are getting ready to take your giant stride into the tank, you have to watch and be patient for a gap so you don’t accidentally land on one of the animals.
Once we were in the tank I followed Paul as we swam around the giant fiberglass coral structure a few times to get the layout of the tank. I hadn’t realized how many tunnels and caves ran through the coral structure! The ones down towards the bottom were more than big enough to swim through, and there was a tiny cavern in the middle where you could look all around an up at the different exits and entrances. Most of the time there was someone looking back at you! The bigger fish like hanging inside the caves sometimes, and you can see the smaller ones hovering around outside. It is definitely a good, unique, and rarely seen vantage point of the tank.
When we were swimming out around the coral it was like being a part of an extremely active reef. There were fish EVERYWHERE, and if you looked closely you had a chance of finding one of the four freen moray eels hiding in the crevices. The bigger critters would make passes as we swam around. The GOT is home to two southern rays, two cownose rays, four turtles, two sand tiger sharks, and a nurse shark. All of them have names! It was any divers’ dream come true to see all of these guys together at the same time in such close proximity.
To top the experience off I got to scratch Myrtle’s back! She loves it, and it was really fun. She is like a big dog, and does that thing where she clses her eyes and leans into you as you scratch. (We use a conk-type shell to scratch with). When it was time to get out, I didn’t want to go! These guys have got an awesome job! 🙂